For the time, it was a bargain -- only $5 to get an ounce of mail across the country, guaranteed in 10 days. That was the rate charged by the Pony Express, which started on April 3, 1860. From Missouri westward, some 200 riders rode fast horses between relay stations across the largely uninhabited land. While it captured the imagination, the Pony Express lasted less than two years, put out of business by the faster telegraph. Today, in spite of the widespread use of e-mail and other Internet based messaging services, the U.S. Postal Service still handles more than 200 billion letters, packages, magazines and catalogs each year.
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